CORPORATE CALLOUT: PROFIT AND SOCIAL CAPITAL
The discourse between fashion as a consumer product and fashion as an artistic beacon emerges along the ambiguous line of social consumerism. The role that fashion plays in society balances between its visual concept and the industrial movement of mass consumerism. The pliant nature of fashion as art lends itself to wide implication and serves as a testimony to the expression of a socially and culturally transparent generation of consumers. The intersection of function (even one as simple as covering your body) and stylistic choice places fashion in a unique position between cultural expression and art. The catch arises when brands fuse their products with contemporary issues. In reality, even though garments can signal social identifiers to those around us, the houses producing these products are ultimately still corporations. They support political parties and social movements for the reason that any corporation does anything—to drive profits and capitalize off of a target consumer market.
We live in a particularly image-driven society. The result is that we are what we wear. Whether actively choosing to buy into that view or not, our natural snap judgements of people are shaped by what we see and garment choice comprises a large segment of that appearance.
Fashion must be addressed as a form between two oftentimes opposing forces—the corporate sector and the identity-driven consumer. Understanding that houses already recognize this unique feature of their industries is key to understand what those Burberry rainbow stripes or “We Should All Be Feminists” Dior t-shirts are all about.
Virgil Abloh’s collaborations with Jenny Holzer, with key themes of social justice and cultural revolution, are tinged with irony. Lest we forget, Abloh is running the key house of LVMH, which is one of the largest and highest grossing cultural conglomerates globally. Holzer is known in her work for questioning the accumulation of power and the abuses that corporate entities inflict on the masses through exploitation and capitalization. Abloh has a reputation as one of the biggest corporate mouthpieces today, stealing designs from lesser-known designers and failing to award credit when warranted. Abloh assumes the role of corporate fashion personified while Holzer has been revered for her opposition to those very phenomena. It is hard not to see the blatant dissonance between the pair as Abloh assumes an air of social awareness within his S/S 18 presentation through his collaborations with Holzer, a long-revered feminist and social commentator, while Abloh himself stands for a corporate sector which abuses the power that Holzer is so well known for calling out.